If you skimmed through the ingredient list for my Whole Wheat Banana Bread recipe, there might have been a couple ingredients that were unfamiliar to you: White Whole Wheat Flour and Vital Wheat Gluten. Until a month ago, I didn’t even know these things existed.
Today we’re going to tackle White Whole Wheat Flour. (You have to come back tomorrow to learn about the oh-so-mysterious Vital Wheat Gluten.) A month ago I was reading an English Muffin recipe and saw that it called for White Whole Wheat Flour. White Whole Wheat Flour?! I rolled my eyes, wondering what in the world the chemists at the King Arthur Flour company were doing to transform good old-fashioned whole wheat flour into White Whole Wheat Flour. This must be the secret behind that Sara Lee White Whole Wheat bread I’ve seen in the supermarket—but really, can’t kids just learn to like normal whole wheat bread?!
Well, it turns I’ve been wrongly accusing the chemists of King Arthur Flour. White Whole Wheat Flour has not undergone some sort of suspicious chemical bleaching or transformation; it is simply whole wheat flour made from “wheat varieties that have very pale-colored, mild-tasting bran layers.” And get this: “…it packs the same nutrition as regular whole wheat.”1 It has the same benefits and properties as regular whole wheat flour, but it has a milder flavor, perfect for more delicate baked goods.
Let’s step aside for a little grain anatomy, using the diagram to the left as our guide. As you can see, a piece of grain comprises three parts: the bran layers, the germ and the farina or endosperm. When a product is labeled as whole grain, it contains all three of these parts. All-purpose flour or white flour is simply made from the endosperm, while whole wheat flours are made from the entire head of grain. Each of the three parts of the grain contains different nutrients:
- the bran layers: fiber, B Vitamins, trace minerals
- the germ: Vitamin E, B vitamins, other antioxidants
- the endosperm: protein and carbohydrates
So why is it important to eat whole grain products? Because in addition to carbohydrates and protein, you are getting fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants—all of which are vital for optimal health.
If you decide to start baking with White Whole Wheat flour, remember that it will behave more like regular whole wheat flour than all-purpose flour because it contains all three parts of the grain like regular whole wheat flour. Just as in baking with regular whole wheat flour, you may need to add a little white or all-purpose flour to get the texture you’re looking for.
So let’s recap: White Whole Wheat Flour and regular whole wheat flour are more similar than we might think; they’re actually in the same family. You could even think of them as siblings, only with different colored hair. As for All-purpose Flour, well, that’s just a different bird.
Stay tuned for Vital Wheat Gluten tomorrow!
1Hertzberg, Jeff and Zoe Francois. Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009. p 8.